NFL Combine Heavily Increasing COVID Protocols

The NFL sent a letter out to prospects invited to the 2022 NFL Combine scheduled for the beginning of March. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweeted out a copy of what was sent to players, showing guidelines for an event dead-set on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The event does not require that the Combine’s participants be vaccinated against COVID-19, but face coverings are recommended for all players and attendees and testing will be available for everyone in attendance. If an attendee tests positive, isolation procedures and medical guidance will also be available.

Because participants are not required to be vaccinated or protected, the event lays out guidelines to seclude each player.

“Players will be restricted to secure Combine venues during their entire time in Indianapolis for their protection,” the letter reads. “Players who violate this policy at any time will be disqualified from further participation and sent home.”

Players will be allowed one guest, provided it is a medical support person. This guest could be a physical therapist, massage therapist, athletic trainer, sport psychologist, or some other professional whose intended purpose is to improve a player’s performance.

Anyone with access to the players, including the medical support, must follow what the letter calls “Tier 1 Combine COVID guidelines,” which requires that the individual be fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. They can’t be showing symptoms and must be wearing a face covering when in the presence of players.

In addition to player seclusion, the Combine is taking other extensive measures to ensure reduced exposure to COVID-19 including “fewer days on site, reduced testing schedule…scheduled medical examination, customized meal options/timing, single room accommodations and secure environment.”

The fear is that, with increased restrictions, many draft prospects will elect not to work out in Indianapolis, instead choosing to display their talents at their respective Pro Days.

Unfortunately, the only players that this hurts are those from smaller schools who get to compare their abilities to those of prospects from bigger schools at the Combine. The importance of the Combine and Pro Days for players at larger schools has been minimized over time with scouts relying more on game film than Combine results. Occasionally an elite Combine performance, like D.K. Metcalf‘s, or an extremely poor showing, like Orlando Brown‘s, will sway talent evaluators on borderline players, but, for the most part, minds have been made up by the end of the College Football Playoffs.

Regardless of Metcalf and Brown’s Combine performances, though, they both had plenty of scouts at their Pro Days. The same cannot be said for athletes at FCS and smaller Group of 5 schools. Look for athletes at those smaller schools to make less noise about the increased restrictions, while Power 5 stars of the college football world may be less willing to tolerate the restrictions and more likely to elect for a singular performance at their Pro Day.

In addition to the athletes, Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson has pointed out that prospective employees of the event have voiced discontent with the imposed work rules, including risk of being sent home.

Regardless of who elects to wait for their Pro Day and who is undeterred by the increased restrictions, the 2022 NFL Combine is sure to look extremely different than years past.

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